In 1995, Dolly Parton came up with the idea to provide children with books to foster a love of reading before they reach school age. She called it the Imagination Library, which has since gifted more than 145 million books to children worldwide. An extension of this initiative blossomed locally through Palm Beach Gardens residents Nicholas and Christen Thompson’s namesake foundation, launched last year. Nicholas—a professional golfer who has played eight years on the PGA Tour and several more years on the Korn Ferry Tour—and his wife created the foundation to give back to the local community. The Thompsons mail one free, high-quality book a month to children enrolled in the program, from birth through their fifth birthday. Donations are going out to children in the lowest-income areas of Palm Beach County, including Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay, and Canal Point; their goal is to expand to other zip codes in the county. Here, Christen talks a bit about their mission.
Why is this initiative important to you?
I have always loved to read. My first volunteer job was reading to preschool children at the local library in Parkland. Palm Beach County is such a great place to live and raise a family, and I was surprised to learn that nearly half of third-graders in the county are reading below grade level. We want all kids to have access to early literacy and the joy of reading.
How can locals donate a book?
The books themselves are selected by educators at the Dollywood Foundation, but locals can support the Imagination Library by donating [monetarily] directly to our foundation. One hundred percent of donations will be used to purchase books for children enrolled in the Palm Beach County Imagination Library.
What can we expect from your foundation in 2021?
We will be holding fundraising events throughout the year, including a virtual 5K in May to benefit the Imagination Library. We will post the details on our website and to social media (@imaginationlibrarypbc).